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Rethink Our Carbon Footprint

“We cannot rule out catastrophic outcomes where human life as we know it is threatened.”

Carbon emissions in the coming decades “will continue to affect the climate for centuries to come in a way that is likely to be irreversible.”

These are not the words of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez,, the Sierra Club, or any of the so-called ‘environmental extremists’ but of two economists from the largest Wall Street bank, JPMorgan Chase, in a January report to their private investment clients.

In that report they added that climate change action should be motivated “by the likelihood of extreme events” and that it could affect economic growth, shares, health, and how long people live. It could put stresses on water, cause famine, and cause people to be displaced or migrate. Climate change could also cause political stress, conflict, and it could hit biodiversity and species survival.

This month, in JPMorgan’s annual report to federal regulators added “climate change” as a risk factor, saying it could hurt operations and customers. Risks including prolonged droughts or flooding, increased frequency of wildfires, rising sea levels and altered rainfall could “prompt changes in regulations or consumer preferences, which in turn could have negative consequences for the business models of JPMorgan Chase’s clients.”

Laurence D. Fink, the founder and chief executive of BlackRock, announced this January in his annual letter to the CEO’s of the world’s largest corporations that his firm would make investment decisions with environmental sustainability as a core goal. BlackRock is the world’s largest asset manager with nearly $7 trillion in investments.

This influential and closely watched letter stated that BlackRock would begin to exit certain investments that “present a high sustainability-related risk,” such as those in coal producers. His intent is to encourage every company, not just energy firms, to rethink their carbon footprints.

“Awareness is rapidly changing, and I believe we are on the edge of a fundamental reshaping of finance. The evidence on climate risk is compelling investors to reassess core assumptions about modern finance.”

That awareness does not seem to have reached Mr. Borrello and the other local politicians who cannot see beyond their own cash registers or their own re-election thinking that the privileged and unsustainable world they grew up in can continue unchanged.

These moves by two of the largest American financial firms follows a letter signed last year by 631 investors from around the world, representing some $37 trillion in assets, calling on governments to step up their efforts against climate change, phase out thermal coal power worldwide, put a price on carbon, end subsidies for fossil fuels, and strengthen nationally-determined contributions to reducing CO2 emissions.

The awareness of the existential threat of climate change has moved from the scientific community to the environmental movement and now to the financial industry that sees it as a threat to its own profits and solvency.

We in New York are fortunate to have a government aware of the threat, that is already ‘rethinking our carbon footprint’, and is preparing the state for a future that, whether we like it or not, will not look like our past. If the researchers at the largest US bank are saying the very future of the human race is at stake and that the bank itself should change, then everyone has to have responsibility for change, whether they are asset managers, or chief executives, or politicians, or us.

Mr. Borrello, in the words of Bob Dylan:

Your old road is

Rapidly agin’.

Please get out of the new one

If you can’t lend your hand

For the times they are a-changin’.

Tom Meara is a Jamestown resident.

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